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An 18-year-old car enthusiast has ensured that at least one of the 1.2 million Morris Marinas and Itals built can cut it on today’s streets and if needed, on track. Patxi Beasley’s ‘Mutant Marina’ retains the predictable lines that was familiar transport for many families in the 1970s but underneath the fading Brooklands Green paint and period dealer stickers resides an altogether different beast. Affectionately known as ‘Myrtle’, it’s now a hybrid of Ford and British Leyland.
By planting a Ford Mondeo Zetec engine and Sierra gearbox in the 900kg car as well as redesigning the suspension set up, a criticism often levelled at the Marina by contemporary road testers, together with fitting modern Falken Sincera tyres, Beasley has created a lively alternative to the Corsas and Fiestas that most young drivers opt for. Much maligned in recent times, former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond once described the Marina as ‘drab and dreary’ but the tweaks make this example, one of around 300 Marinas left on the road, a very different car to the ones produced during British Leyland’s most turbulent times.
“Everyone seems to go for the same cars and I just wanted something different. This came up and with a few tweaks, it made a lot of sense!” says Patxi Beasley who is an apprentice at an independent Land Rover garage. “Slotting in the Ford engine has made it more reliable and now I can use it every day.”
The upgrades have made the Mutant Marina Myrtle an unlikely drift car with Falken’s multiple drifting champion James Deane recently enjoying a slide in the 120bhp car at Rockingham. “It’s lacking a bit of power compared to my 750bhp Nissan S14 so you need to keep it nailed,” says Deane. “I started drifting in a Sierra and it takes me back to that. It’s old school but cool, though I’ve got no plans to ask Patxi to borrow it, well not just yet!”